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Communicating Effectively While Wearing a Mask

The two great challenges of verbal communication in the COVID era are speaking on camera and speaking while wearing a mask.

I recently had a customer service interaction where I almost took something the wrong way because I couldn’t see that the message was being delivered with a smile! What’s more, I am sure I am not the first person that has happened to.

So with that in mind, I’d like to offer a few tips to help ensure your verbal communication is understood as intended when hampered by wearing a face mask.

When it’s critical, learn from surgeons

Think of a surgeon in an operating theatre where everyone is wearing masks and clear, timely communication is paramount. When you need to be understood the first time, use unambiguous language.

When emotions are involved, you can be more descriptive though

Imagine someone wearing a mask and consider the difference between how the following statements might come across.

“That’s a nice dress.”
“Oh wow! I really love your dress.”

Use what you have to maximum effect

To convey emotions consider slightly exaggerating your vocal variety, hand gestures/body language, and facial expression through your eyes and forehead. To be understood, we may need to enunciate more and speak a little more slowly.

Finally, simply be aware of the limitations

Sometimes it’s really a matter of being aware that our wry smile or our cheeky grin are not visible. As much as we might intend to be light-hearted, we might just have to accept that we need to choose our words more carefully so people don’t take them the wrong way.


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Contact David Wise

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